February 7, 2020 / 9:14 AM / 20 days ago

EMERGING MARKETS-Stocks falter as coronavirus death toll mounts

* Chinese equities lead weekly declines in Asia

* Russian rouble slides before interest rate decision

* South African rand falls as business confidence weakens

By Sagarika Jaisinghani

Feb 7 (Reuters) - Emerging-market stocks slipped on Friday as the mounting death toll from the coronavirus epidemic overshadowed efforts by China to limit the economic fallout of the outbreak, while the Russian rouble eased ahead of a central bank meeting later in the day.

An index of emerging-market equities fell 0.6% as the death toll from the virus reached 636 in China, with most of the deaths reported in Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak.

Chinese stocks logged their worst week since May 2019, after a selloff on Monday wiped out about $400 billion in market capitalisation off Shanghai’s main stock market.

Still, the broader MSCI basket was set for its biggest weekly gain in eight. Investors took heart earlier in the week from Beijing’s attempts to contain both the outbreak and its impact on the Chinese economy.

U.S. and European stock markets reached record highs on Thursday. Upbeat fourth-quarter earnings season and China’s move to halve additional tariffs on some U.S. goods in an effort to boost business confidence.

In a telephone call on Friday, Chinese President Xi Jinping told U.S. President Donald Trump that China was confident it could contain the epidemic with no long-term economic consequences, according to state television.

“Markets have taken the view that the coronavirus outbreak will be contained,” said Stephen Innes, chief market strategist at AxiCorp.

“While the outbreak appears to be stabilizing outside Hubei province, the situation in Wuhan and Hubei may still be challenging, and the disruption to China’s economy will likely continue in the short term. This may give cause for pause or, at minimum, investors coming up for air.

Equity markets elsewhere in the developing world were mixed, with the Turkish and South African stock indexes gaining about 0.2%.

Russian equities were flat and the rouble shed about 0.3% before a central bank policy meeting. Analysts expect the bank to cut interest rates again after five consecutive reductions last year.

South Africa’s rand fell about 0.4%, extending a slide in the previous session as data showed business confidence in the country fell in January. The currency has lagged its regional peers this year after the worst power cuts in a decade and choppy economic growth.

The Turkish lira was nearly unchanged against the dollar. Currencies in Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic were down versus the euro.

For GRAPHIC on emerging market FX performance in 2020, see tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh For GRAPHIC on MSCI emerging index performance in 2020, see tmsnrt.rs/2OusNdX

For TOP NEWS across emerging markets

For CENTRAL EUROPE market report, see

For TURKISH market report, see

For RUSSIAN market report, see (Reporting by Sagarika Jaisinghani in Bengaluru, editing by Larry King)

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